Our ground-breaking artificial intelligence research is developing robots that can learn human language and interact socially with pioneering applications across global industry.

Professor Oliver Lemon, Director of the Interaction Lab

Professor Oliver Lemon and his team are developing technology to enable robots and computers to interact naturally with humans, using combinations of speech, gesture, movements and facial expressions. Their leading artificial intelligence (AI) research can make such human-level communication skills a reality, for future systems that will cooperate intelligently.

Their Interaction Lab is one of the few places in the world that has pioneered the use of machine learning methods to develop conversational language interfaces. This means that machines can now learn how to have dialogues with people and better understand and generate natural human language. Ultimately, this research will develop new interfaces and robots which are easier, quicker, and more enjoyable to use.

Real-world impact

As robots and the 'internet of things' become more integrated into our everyday lives, we will need increasingly complex human interaction systems, to avoid information overload and enjoy more effective and entertaining interaction with new technologies. The Interaction Lab has worked with companies including Yahoo, Orange, and BMW to solve new problems in conversational interaction with machines.

They are breaking new ground in the devlopment of robots that can learn from human language, and how to interact socially with humans. The team was successful in a 2015 European Commission Horizon 2020 funding call which has resulted in Pepper, Heriot-Watt's resident robot. Pepper exhibits behaviour that is socially appropriate, combining speech-based interaction with non-verbal communication and human-aware navigation.

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Read about Heriot-Watt's Year of Robotics 2017.